“Even in the smallest way perhaps these songs can bring a little light into this sometimes dark world. To remind us that music is life, and hope and that healing go hand-in-hand with song.”
– Dave Grohl, November 2015
It has long been said that Dave Grohl is the nicest man in rock, and so it proved last month when his band made this new EP available for free as a ‘thank you’ to their legions of loyal fans. Not only that, but in an open letter he dedicated it to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks and hosted a donation link on their website.
Having just finished Mick Wall’s biography Learning to Fly, I’m in the midst of a bit of a Foo’s frenzy. I’ve been a huge fan since an ex-girlfriend played me Monkeywrench about fifteen years ago. That song is still perpetually on my playlist, but it wasn’t until I saw them play Cardiff CIA on 2002’s One By One tour that I really started taking notice. It was the first time I saw them live, and the gig was spectacular. You can’t fail to be impressed by their professionalism and musicianship. But what really made a difference to me and most of the audience that night was when the band came out for the encores wearing Welsh football shirts. The national team had beaten Azerbaijan 2-0 in Baku earlier that day, a month after beating Italy 2-1 at the Millennium Stadium, and under the leadership of Mark Hughes were on the cusp of qualifying for the 2004 Euros. As it happened we eventually lost in a play-off to Russia, but the fact that Dave Grohl and co didn’t just acknowledge there was a match that day, but took the effort to ingratiate themselves with the Welsh public to such an extent was nice to see.
To the music…
Saint Cecilia contains 5 tracks, most of which sound more like vintage Foo’s. That isn’t surprising because one of the songs, the Neverending Sigh, is apparently almost two decades old. That would date it somewhere between the Foo’s first two albums which are still, by many people’s estimations, among their best to date. Title track excluded, there is a distinct lack of soaring, arms-aloft choruses to be had here. Compared to the last two studio albums, which at times come across as sprawling and unfocused, the songs on Saint Cecilia are short, punchy and to the point. Sean rocks up with a fuzzy guitar, smacks you in the face with it, and is gone in just 02:11 while Saviour Breath is so breathlessly intense it could easily pass for a Motorhead cover. Iron Rooster offers some respite with it’s jazzy hooks and dreamy melody, and the aforementioned Neverending Sigh rounds things off with the hauntingly self-analytical refrain ‘No one lets everyone in’ perhaps betraying a younger, less confident Dave.
According to Wiki, Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians. It’s also the name of the hotel in Austin where these songs were recorded. Not that you would know they were recorded in a hotel. This EP isn’t just one for the completists, but a worthy addition to any collection. If it was a release by a younger band you would mark them one to watch, but the Foo’s have been there, done it, bought the Welsh football shirts, and they are still doing it. Kudos.
Oh, and Russia? We’ll see you in France next summer.